As a frequent traveler, I get the opportunity to see how different properties operate. And, one of the side effects of working and writing for a hospitality company is you begin to notice things that the average traveler may not. Like how long check-in takes or their insane use of pape. On a recent trip to Mexico, I witnessed some ridiculous wastefulness that all is all too common for a lot of properties.
But, simple changes could eliminate most of the waste I witnessed. Property managers or owners can invest in operation changes that will drastically reduce the amount of resources and money they spend. Here are a few of the biggest things I noticed and what they could do to change it.
Use Less Paper
Most businesses are guilty of using too much paper, but at this last property, I witnessed more paper use than I had in a long time. At check-in, there were about 50 printed papers, which included terms and conditions, multiple scans of passports, and who else knows what. The majority of the papers I watched them print were never even shown to the guest, they were simply for their own records.
Throughout my stay at the property, the paper waste continued. Each dinner reservation was printed on a receipt and delivered in an envelope, handwritten and typed notes were placed in the room throughout the day, and if you asked for information at the concierge desk they would happily print it out for you.
There seems to be an obvious solution to this paper problem and that’s to let technology take over. During check-in, use a tablet or the front desk’s computer monitor to show guests terms and conditions and accept.
Handwritten notes and reservations are a little tricker to eliminate as they play into a property’s experience. However, as was the case for the property I was at, it was wasteful to deliver a reservation notification inside an envelope that would only be used once. Small instances where you can eliminate waste will make a meaningful impact over time. Take a step back and analyze the seemingly small instances where you can eliminate waste in everyday tasks. A little effort goes a long way.
Plastic Water Bottles
Bottled water is bad for many reasons. Sourcing bottled water is bad for the environment as it disturbs the natural habitats and the plastic used for the bottles is often thrown away. During my trip, the property I was at gave out bottled water like it was nobody’s business, and to make it worse, the bottles were small, so if you were actually thirsty, you’d need more than one.
Using plastic bottles as your main source of water at the property can turn into a wasteful and expensive endeavor. The property I was at was massive, so they have the means to offer more creative solutions. For example, the property could provide reusable cups to fill water up with at various water stations. Many properties won’t offer bottled water for free and at every corner, but it is something to contemplate eliminating from your property.
Guest Education Programs
Guest education programs have become popular in the past decade or so. It’s common for properties to communicate to their guests that they’re trying to conserve in one way or another. From recycling to towel reuse programs, hotels are doing what they can to conserve.
a. Towel and Linen Reuse Programs
Many properties have implemented towel and linen reuse programs, but it’s worth mentioning again. Hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns, and any other property type uses an incredible amount of water and energy washing and drying towels. From a traditional guest experience perspective, you should still offer new towels and linens to your guests, but communicate to them that if they wish, they can help you conserve.
b. Reducing Water Usage
There are a few ways you can effectively communicate to your guests that your property want s to conserve water. During the worst periods of California’s droughts, hotels would tell their guests in-person, in their rooms, and in various other places that they were actively conserving water.
In recent years, it’s become common for hotels to place a placards in rooms which explain their towel reuse and linen programs. If you want to create placards like this, make sure you use something durable that will last several months or years. Try not to print conservation material on paper that will rip or tear and need replacement after every guests’ stay.
Get creative with your conservation efforts. Marketing yourself as an eco-friendly property will encourage guests to do little things that make a big impact over time.
c. Electricity and Encouraging Guests to Turn the Lights Off
One thing I’ve seen in properties, especially outside of the United States, include is a master light switch next to the door. The switch allows guests to quickly turn off all the lights in their room without having to walk around and find all the switches. Making it super easy for guests to do the right thing is the best tactic.
Motion sensor and timed lights are also a good idea if they’re in your property’s budget.
Recycling has been popular for years, but on my last trip, I didn’t see the property make any attempt to recycle. (Not even those plastic bottles!) Most properties within the United States implement some sort of recycling system and that is one of the easiest ways to lessen your effects on the environment. Of course, the city or country your property operates in will affect your ability to recycle properly.
Simply adding a recycling bin inside each of the rooms and other common areas will encourage your guests and staff to do their part.
Get Your Staff on Board
You can attempt to implement any type of program you want, but without your staff’s commitment, it has smaller chance of succeeding. It’s essential that your staff is educated and in turn can educate your guests and implement on a regular basis. In order to do things like use less paper, it will likely take operational changes that start with the front desk. I also realize it’s not exactly easy to decide one day that you will no longer use paper. But, some time and thought could identify areas where it is easier than not to change processes.
Waste is a part of everyday life, and unfortunately while traveling, it often becomes a free-for-all. In the case of the property I was at, there are several changes that could immediately make an impact. Not every property is the same and there are many that have significantly reduced their carbon footprint. All types of properties can find ways to cut down and waste and help travelers be more sustainable.